An army; well, a brigade; or anyway at least a couple of battalions of Brights milled around the mall in Washington DC on March 24—various estimates gave “highs are around 20,000 with lows slightly less than half that”—at an event called the “Reason Rally.”
Hemant Mehta, who calls himself “The Friendly Atheist”, and the man whom the Brights tell us to look to for accurate descriptions of the rally, said “If anyone asks, just tell them there were 1,000,000 people at the Reason Rally.”
According to their press release, “several thousands of secular Americans came to and went from the capital city” on that fateful day. Padding out the “several thousands” were “a smattering of Canadians,” no doubt there in an unrequited search of warmer weather. For the day was not clement, and unceasing rains doused many flames.
“Importantly,”—note the word—“the day before the Rally, hundreds converged on Capitol Hill to lobby congressional staff on issues related to separation of religion and government [emphasis mine].” Now, “hundreds” of people from every activist and interest group are on Capitol Hill on a daily basis, each chirruping away, so it’s not clear if the Brights were able to make themselves heard above the background noise.
Several Big Names came to the rally and spoke, including Richard “Religion is Child Abuse” Dawkins, Bill “C-word” Maher (he sent a pre-recorded clip), professional smart aleck PZ Myers, the kid who sued her high school to have them remove a prayer from its wall, the inaptly named Greta Christina who “is one of the most widely-read and well-respected bloggers in the atheist blogosphere” and authoress of the book Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, “Rational Warrior a.k.a Tombstone Da Deadman”, many others, and Democrat Senator Tom “Bee Pollen” Harkin of Iowa.
Each of these notables received a swag bag in which was a miniature flashlight (get it? get it?) and a flyer. Do not fret if the message of that sticker is opaque, for the Bright Bulletin helpfully tells us:
Its earnest message, briefly condensed is this: A citizen’s “nonbeliever” status is a consequence of being viewed through the lens of religion, looking at a single conclusion about deity. We must be seen as more than that if we hope to come across as the moral and civic equals of other citizens.
Crowds are naturally rambunctious, especially at pep rallies; enthusiasm multiplies with earnestness. So it shouldn’t surprise us that some joyful populant held up a large crucifix to which was glued a sign, with, the Friendly Atheist tells us, “a message calling to banish the Ten Commandments to the dustbin of history.” Now wouldn’t that be nice? Of course, if you believe that all morality is relative, “Thou shalt not murder” isn’t even a suggestion.
Another lady held a sign which read “Get [religious symbol 1], [religious symbol 2], [religious symbold 3] of my [picture of female underwear]”, where the religious symbols approximated the word “out.” How many bets do I have that this lady enthusiastically supports both mandatory sex education and Planned Parenthood?
A fellow with heavy eye makeup named Tim Minchin sang a song entitled “M…” where, since my mother reads my blog, I do not fill in the ellipsis. The Friendly Atheist requested, “How about some respect for the sign language interpreter who handled that Tim Minchin [M…] song? She was awesome.” There is even a video, thankfully with poor sound so that Minchin can barely be heard, showing the signer, to wild applause, repeatedly flashing her fingers in the eponymous obscene gesture. How proud her mother must be.
Amusingly, “Richard Dawkins had a bodyguard. I’ve been to a few conferences with him and I never saw that until the Reason Rally. I guess 1,000,000 atheists will do that to you…[ellipsis original].” I’m not certain, of course, but my guess is that William Lane Craig, the man Dawkins most fears, travels the world un-escorted by muscled men.
From amusing to hilarious: the Bright’s press release fills the end of its rally recap by touting the book Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will by Gregg Caruso with the words
The author argues that the subjective feeling of freedom is an illusion created by certain aspects of consciousness and gives a novel account of how the illusion is created; a naturalist approach that argues against both compatibilist and libertarian accounts of free will) [sic on the dangling parenthesis].
This is Monty Python’s joke in reverse. A few thousand concerned folks who call themselves “free thinkers” choose to meet to chant, “We have no free will. We have no free will.” Well, why argue with them?